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Why Fitbit is winning

My main aim for this year was to lose weight. Actually that’s not true. My main aim for this year was to be happy which involves changing my lifestyle and habits, mostly focussed around my fitness and weight.

Data helps me with this, tracking my weight loss lets me look back and see how I’ve been doing. To that end I invested in a set of Withings scales. They’ve been great and have really helped me keep focus, and given me that little spur I needed from time to time to get back on my bike, or go for a walk, anything to be a little more active. Aside from my happiness, losing weight is also something I must do as I’d really like to NOT be taking maximum dosage pills for my high blood pressure for the rest of my life. With that in mind I also invested in the Withings blood pressure cuff to let me do accurate readings at home.

Looking to accumulate all my ‘fitness’ related data I looked for ways to track my activities and, as I used it last year when I got my bike I re-installed CycleMeter to track that and looked into Fitocracy as a way to pull it all together.

It was about then I realised my system was a little flawed. CycleMeter only shares data with a single tracking service (Dailymile) which I don’t use… I remembered back to my running days (knee still gubbed so they remain in the past for now) and looked into RunKeeper. Built around an activity tracking service, it also has a GPS app for tracking runs and cycles… not as full featured as CycleMeter but all I really want is time and distance (and a map, that’s nice too).

I’ve spent a few weeks manually updating Runkeeper with the data captured by Cyclemeter (which I then need to manually pull into Fitocracy) and I’m a bit bored of it already. So it’s bye bye CycleMeter and Fitocracy, and hello Runkeeper.

It’s here I should also mention that I purchased a Fitbit a few weeks ago. It was more curiosity than anything but as a way to track, fairly accurately, who active you are throughout the day it’s been far more useful than I first thought. It also syncs with Withings (for my weigh-ins) and Runkeeper (for my activities). It’s also fair to say that it’s got the nicest interface/dashboard of any of the services I use. Withings is shockingly bad and slow to render, Runkeeper is somewhat dated already and really needs a UI designer overall.

So, Fitbit has fast become my hub, the central place where I track personal fitness data because it does what I need it to do and does a lot of that in the background with very little interaction from me.

The last piece falls into place as, thanks to the fact that Fitbit will sync data with MyFitnessPal which I’ve used in the past for logging what I eat and I have a good balance of automated data collection, all pulled together into one useful Dashboard.

It’s taken me a while to get to this point, not least because every single app or service I’ve tried has been good in some ways but bad in others. I prefer using CycleMeter but will put up with the deficiencies of Runkeeper to get the data sync’d automatically. I prefer interacting with Fitocracy than Runkeeper but it’s not quite there yet in terms of automated services (and is heavily geared towards weight pumping gym bunnies). Fitbit hits the sweet spot for me and given that I’ve dropped over two stones since January, it seems to be working!

Me on Fitbit

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On my MacBook Air

My Desktop

More for my own notes than yours, and because I’ve done this before and it was useful to some other people, here is what I have running and installed on my MacBook Air. I’m not done yet but for the most part I’m happy enough with this lot.

My workflow is dominated by Apple devices, MacBook Air is my home computer, I have iPhone and iPad, but all of my personal tasks, email and calendars need to be accessible from my work machine (a Windows laptop). That’s very easy these days and I rely on Google to host most of that, pulling the info into various apps on my different devices.

For now.

So here is the list, and this time round it’s not all free. That’s one thing I’ve realised in my time with iPhone and iPad, some apps are well worth paying for and I’m happy to pay for them (same as some services, Instapaper being an excellent example).

  • Moom - gives me Windows 7 style window positioning options which I’ve grown used to.
  • Growl - still THE notification engine it seems, highly configurable.
  • Caffeine - one click to stop your Mac going to sleep until you say so, handy for viewing movies etc.
  • FuzzyClock - change the time to an approximation, seems to help me be less ‘minute’ obsessed.
  • Alfred - quick launcher, file finder, all round awesome tool. Seems to have overtaken QuikSilver.
  • The Unarchiver - deals with most archive file formats, nice and simple.
  • Witch - window switching made easy, a must have if you are moving from Windows.
  • TimeMachine Scheduler - lets you schedule timemachine backups… obviously.
  • Air Display - extends my screen to my iPad or iPhone (still playing with this one).
  • Microsoft Office  - much as I love the Apple versions (Excel still rules though), most of the files I work with are Office formatted. Home Use Program got me this for £10!
  • Twitterific - Twitter Client. I have Tweetbot BETA installed but prefer the lighter design touch of Twitterific… however Tweetbot has a MUTE filter for hashtags which may sway me.
  • CyberDuck - FTP client. Transmit gets a lot of plaudits but this one has a duck as an icon. It also now supports WebDAV and Google Drive.
  • Notational Velocity - stores and retrieves notes. I use this primarily to access SimpleNote notes (a web app) as it’s synced to Dropbox.
  • Adium - IM client. Another duck.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner - used to create a bootable backup of my machine.
  • Dropbox - quite simple, I don’t know where I’d be without this service. Hosted files, apps on all my devices. Drop something in a folder and it’s synced everywhere.
  • TextWrangler – powerful text editor. Looking at Tincta for something a bit simpler though.
  • uTorrent - for downloading torrents. Duh.
  • VLC - video player, supports a multitude of formats.
  • Google Chrome - I use it on my Windows box, so syncing keeps my ‘web environment’ the same wherever I go.
  • Day One - Journal app, only downside is no web app, syncs with iCloud and/or Dropbox.
  • iA Writer - a ‘focused writing app’, clears the screen of distractions. Syncs with Dropbox and/or iCloud.
  • Reeder - already on my iPad and iPhone, my RSS reader of choice. You can post out to InstaPaper, Pinboard and other services from there.
  • Read Later - an Instapaper client for the Mac. A nice companion to Reeder (you can use it for Pocket as well).
  • Skitch - fantastical app for screenshots and image tweaking.
  • Postbox – current email client. Hooks up to GMail well. It’s not as nice as Sparrow though, which Google has just bought so still not sure what I’ll settle on.
  • HandBrake - video transcoder, for converting video files. Simples.
  • Calibre - eBook management, for my Kindle.
  • Spotify - because sometimes listening to random playlists created by someone else is all you wanna do!
  • CamTwist - bit of a daft one, but lets you add effects during video chats. Also lets you share your screen on a cam session so potentially useful? YMMV!
  • BetterTouchTool - I love the touchpad, multi-touch gestures are changing how I work, this add-on lets you take that to the next level, still figuring it all out!
  • ControlPlane - context based configurations, change your setup depending on where you are, what you have plugged in and so on.
  • Bartender - file under, why didn’t Apple fix this? Removes a LOT of visual clutter (it’s the small bar on the top-right of my screenshot above).
  • Fantastical - I’d be lost without my calendar, but iCal is less than great, this makes using the calendar quick and easy.
  • Skype - because it’s Skype..
  • Crashplan - web based backup. Still trying to figure out how to include my NAS drives in my plan but feel much more secure already!
  • Cobook - fed up managing your own Address Book? This will hook into FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter (more services on the way) and keep things up to date for you. Sync to iCloud.. sync to devices. SORTED.
  • scrobbler – cos I can’t stop logging what tracks I’ve listened to now!
  • AppCleaner – for when I want to remove some of these apps, it’ll find all the related files and get rid of them too.

Still to find

  • Image Editor – iPhoto is fine for tweaking photos but I need something for when I’m building out websites. Seashore is a likely candidate.
  • To Do – I use Astrid these days, but they don’t have an OSX app. I’ve flip-flopped on To Do list apps on my iOS devices a lot recently so expect this to change again (been through RTM, Orchestra and a couple of others).

One thing that struck me, whilst writing this up, was how loyal I am. Not to Apple, but to services or applications that I like. I know there are other RSS apps out there but I will not budge from Reeder, same for InstaPaper, Chrome and a few others. Once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it until I don’t have the choice (Sparrow being the most recent example).

Still a couple of things to sort out, I need a nice thin sleeve for my MacBook Air, but I’m very happy to have made the switch.

See more like this: Apple, Software, or link to this post

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I am Apple

Well, I’ve finally done it. I’ve ditched my Windows PC and bought a MacBook Air so all my PC tech is now Apple.

Am I a fanboy? Possibly. But for me it’s more about things working easily, and I’m not really into hacking stuff these days so the fact I can plugin an Airport Express in and instantly I can bounce music to a nice beefy set of speakers across the room, or fire up a video on either my MacBook, iPhone or iPad and bounce it to Apple TV to watch on my big screen… well it’s simple, easy and works. For me.

I don’t feel “locked in”, I still use a hybrid service for things like email and calendaring (Google), and I don’t use many of the default Apple apps (Sssshhhh I have Microsoft Office installed on my MacBook!). It all just works for what I want to do, I will continue to tweak things like that but I’m very happy that things are just working (I won’t mention the failed hard drive in my NAS box the other day..).

I’m very aware it’s materialistic but I’d argue that having a simple, reliable system for entertainment, is good for me. It lets me relax and as I don’t watch to all that much TV, being able to bounce 6Music round my flat is a just wonderful. I no longer spend frustrating hours trying to get something ‘simple’ to work and whilst I don’t ‘hack’ things all that much these days it’s still nice to not have that stress in my life.

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